Thursday, July 26, 2018

Review: Rocky Road Trip Oreos

Once again, I was caught off-guard at the supermarket when I came across a new Limited Edition Oreo flavor that I wasn't even aware was coming: Rocky Road Trip Oreos.

I immediately got a good feeling about this one. (Spoiler: Yup. They're really good!)

Since my daughter is coming home for a visit this weekend, I went ahead and bought two packages, and it's a good thing I did: the first one is almost completely empty already!  

Confession time: I still have multiple packages of Limited Edition Oreos in the house from past taste tests, because I'm not actually big on sweets when it comes to snacking. I rarely eat more than 2 of them per taste test. If I do indulge in junk food, it's usually of the salty variety, so for these cookies to disappear this quickly, you know they're something special.

Right from the start, I could see that this cookie, in particular, has a lot going on: there are marshmallow flecks embedded into the chocolate Oreo sandwich cookies, and the chocolate rocky road flavored filling is infused with "Soy Nut Inclusions."

I have no clue what that is, but I tell you what--they're dang tasty.

As soon as you open the package, you get the aroma of marshmallow--oooh, that's a nice start.

The flavor profile is, not surprisingly, very chocolate-forward, but there's a great balance between the fudgy chocolate center and the chocolate cookie itself.  The soy nuts give the filling a nice crunch, and every so often, you get a a little extra chewy bit from the marshmallows embedded in the cookie.   

So much to pay attention to as you're eating them, that you need to have at least 3 to fully experience all of the components.  I'm not even that big of a chocolate cookie fan, and I'm calling this one a home run.

Final grade: A

Seriously, go out and get yourself a couple of packages of these. Here's an Amazon link, but as usual, you're going to pay a premium there, so if you can find them in your supermarket, that's the way to go.

To see ALL of my Oreo Cookie reviews, click HERE to see my Handy Reference Guide with links to all of them.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fruit Fly Invasion: This is war! (a.k.a. Getting Rid of Fruit Flies FAST)

Ah, summertime!  Sunny skies, warm breezes, and plenty of fresh fruit in season!!

But with all of this wonderful fresh fruit comes that annual dreaded nemesis: fruit flies.

Fruit looks so pretty set out in a basket on the counter
--unfortunately, fruit flies think so, too. Don't do it!
It doesn't take long for these nasty little buggers to move in and take over--they hitchhike along with the fruit you buy at the store, and once they start breeding, they reproduce at an incredible rate.  I've read that fruit flies can lay up to 500 eggs, which mature and hatch in about a week, and less than a week after that, they're buzzing around your house, landing in your wine glass, and being generally annoying as heck. Adult fruit flies can live for up to 50 days, so once you start seeing them, you've got to take action, and keep it up for awhile to fully eradicate them.

This is a familiar scenario for us at this point--even if we're careful to wash our fruit, it's inevitably the darn bananas that bring them in. (Sometimes, it's those fresh basil plants or succulents, too.)

I've seen others post "humane" traps that allow you to trap the flies and set them free, but I'm telling you right now--you'll never be able to catch and release them all, so unless you can figure out a way to make the little pests pay rent, I would advise the tried-and-true method we use: Apple Cider Vinegar Traps-of-Doom.

After only 7 hours--ugh!
They way they work is simple: pour some apple cider vinegar into a wine glass, mason jar, or even a small plastic cup, add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid to break up the surface tension on the vinegar so that the flies can't just skim the surface, and set the glass out wherever you've spotted fruit flies.  The flies are attracted to the scent of the cider vinegar, fly down into the glass, get too close to the surface of the liquid, and drown.  The deeper the glass, the better--fruit flies may be excellent hitchhikers and prolific breeders, but they're not exactly Mensa candidates. Once they fly into a tall glass (I find that wine glasses work the best) they have trouble figuring out which way is up and which way is down, and get stuck inside, eventually finding their way to a vinegary demise.

This is a trap that I left
out overnight--horrifying!

If you do some searching on these types of DIY traps, you'll see others who recommend putting plastic wrap on top with holes punched in it for the flies to crawl through, or methods that involve sticking a paper coffee filter into the jar.  These steps are unnecessary--just set out the trap I've described above, and you're all set.

In addition to setting the traps, you'll want to do the following to avoid the flies from coming back:

-- Remove all fruit from your kitchen for a couple of weeks--wash any fruit you bring home immediately, and put it in the refrigerator.

-- For bananas or other items you'd rather not refrigerate, like tomatoes or onions, put them in labeled paper bags to keep the fruit flies from laying eggs on them.

-- Empty your garbage out every night--given the absence of overripe fruit, they'll go for anything with a strong odor.

-- If you have a food waste disposal system hooked up to your sink, make sure you grind up everything right away and rinse the drain the thoroughly to avoid any residue that will attract flies. If you spot flies coming and going from your drains, you can pour a couple of quarts of boiling water down there to help flush them out (I've heard boiling white vinegar works well, but that sounds like it would stink up your kitchen.  If you decide to go that route, sprinkle a little baking soda down the drain first--it will react with the vinegar and bubble up, helping to clear your drain of any debris.) 

-- Keep surfaces dry and clean, including sponges, dish towels, and the drainage tray in your kitchen. Fruit flies will seek out any damp surface they can find, so once you've taken away their fruit, they'll look to lay their eggs elsewhere. Which reminds me of one last tip....

-- Set traps in other rooms, especially high-moisture areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms. Fruit flies aren't going to respect room boundaries, and will migrate to other areas in your home, especially areas where you have sinks or water.  Even damp towels left in a hamper can spell trouble.

Follow these steps and you should notice a big improvement within a couple of days. Within 2 days, after following all of the tips above, we didn't see anymore fruit flies and were able to ditch all of the vinegar traps. (I honestly thought it would take at least a week, but was pleasantly surprised.)  If you've succeeded in cleaning all of the surfaces where the eggs were laid, and you don't keep fruit out for a few days, you should be in the clear.

Once you've kicked the fruit flies to the curb, treat yourself to a nice, fly-free glass of wine--just be sure to rinse it out before you go to bed, or you could end up having to start the whole process over again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trying StitchFix for the first time: so far, so good!

My eldest daughter text me some photos last week from what appeared to be a recent shopping excursion.  She was standing in front of a full length mirror, modeling a few different outfits. Every single one of them was trendy, stylish, and fit her perfectly.   I complimented her about it, and that's she told me: everything had been selected for her and mailed to her via StitchFix.

Back before I started using Adblocker on my browser, I used to see ads for that company on Facebook, but disregarded them because I didn't think they were worth it. I don't like the idea of getting stuck with automatic monthly shipments, and being "height challenged", shopping for clothes is usually not easy--I'm just barely too tall for petite-length clothes, and regular length is usually a bit too long.

Still...when she clued me in on the process, I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

You start by filling out a thorough profile on yourself, your likes and dislikes when it comes to clothing, style preferences (Dressy, Business Casual, Casual, etc.), and what types of items you'd like to receive (shoes, tops, jeans) and how often.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that you can schedule shipments at varying intervals: monthly for a regular "Fix," once every two months or once every three months to space them out more, or every 2-3 weeks if you want to build a wardrobe quickly.

My daughter sent me her referral code (so that she gets $25 if I place an order, and so will I, on a future order), and then my husband found an AmEx offer that will give me $25 back onto my credit card if I spend, $50 or more.  Okay...let's give it a go!

I downloaded the app and visited the website, where I filled out the questionnaire.  For once, I was completely honest about my height and weight, and didn't hold back when answering the questions about what parts of my body I'd like to highlight vs. what I'd like to de-emphasize.  I also took advantage of the opportunity to provide "additional comments" and told the stylist what types of necklines I prefer, what typically looks and feels right in terms of color and fit, and then hit "Send" and hoped for the best.

The website also has a "thumbs up, thumbs down" gallery that you scroll through, not unlike a dating app, and indicate which items you like or dislike.  Supposedly, this helps the stylist assigned to you to figure out what type of pieces to send.

After a few days of obsessively checking back on the website to give more ratings--I think that's my favorite part--I was informed that my stylist had chosen some items for me, and I would receive it within a week.  My credit card was charged a $20 styling fee, which would be credited towards my order if I decided to keep any of the items.  The shipment will include a pre-paid envelope so that I can return any items that I don't want.

*Note: if you do keep ALL 5 of the items, you're rewarded with a 25% discount on the entire order.  This makes a significant difference in the price, and if you're on the fence about one item, it could be less expensive to just keep it and donate it to a friend.

Styling Cards and Note from My Stylist
First bit of good news: the box wasn't expected to arrive until Saturday, but showed up on my doorstep by Wednesday (today).  When I opened the box there were 4 clothing items, and 1 accessory item (a necklace).  Although the necklace was pretty, I immediately regretted indicating that I'd "occasionally" be open to receiving things like jewelry and shoes, because what I really need are some basic wardrobe pieces, so I feel like I cheated myself out of a clothing item. (My daughter told me--after my shipment was already on its way--that she also decided not to receive accessories. Her logic is that you can find low-cost accessories pretty easily just about anywhere, and don't require the expertise of a stylist for those. I agree.)

Each piece came with a Stitch Fix styling card, with a photo of the item I received, along with a bunch of other suggested items you could pair with it (shoes, bags, tops, etc.)   Yet another reason I won't be asking them to include accessories in a future box--I can just pick them up my own, based on the card suggestions. There was also a message from the stylist (Ashley), explaining why she chose each item.

First impressions: the color palette of dark blues and black were definitely my style, and all 3 shirts coordinated well with the dark wash jeans.  But would they fit?

First clothing item:  Dark Wash Boyfriend Jeans, $88
The jeans fit pretty well, although the waistband hit a bit lower than what I'm used to.  I checked off the box that said I like my pants to hit "at the waist" rather than "low rise" or "high rise" but this pair leaned more towards the lower end.  Nevertheless, they zipped right up, with no gapping anywhere. The bottoms of the jeans were cuffed up, though, and hit at a weird length, so I ended up rolling them down and they were just about right (a tiny bit long, but after washing, I think they'll be spot on perfect).  I have never spent this much money on jeans before, and this was the most expensive piece of clothing in the box, but I have to admit--they're probably the nicest jeans I've ever owned.

Second clothing item: Floral V-Neck Top with Short-Sleeves
I loved the look of this right out of the box, and when I tried it on, it looked great.  It flowed nicely without being too billowy, and it consisted of two different fabrics: a cotton jersey for the back that made it feel like a t-shirt, and a more chiffon-like patterned fabric in the front that added ease and movement.  Very nice! It looked great with the jeans, and the fabric accent on the sleeves were an eye-catching touch. Although I had indicated that I don't like to "show off" my arms on the questionnaire, I did say in my note to the stylist that I like 3/4 sleeves or even short sleeves, I just wasn't a big fan of sleeveless shirts. She listened, and I'm glad.

Third clothing item and Jewelry item: Black long-sleeved tunic shirt, $54 and Gold & Silver tone necklace, $28
Another top with mixed fabric materials, in basic black, which I like to wear often. In fact, I didn't think I would want to keep this one because I already have something very similar in my closet, but once I tried it on, it won me over. It fit very well, like the first shirt, with just the right amount of looseness without looking matronly. It was also a nicer quality than the similar shirt I already own, so I'm going to ditch that one and keep this one.  I paired it with the necklace and it looked terrific.  I would not have bought this necklace for $28, but with the discount, and seeing it paired with the clothes, I do have to give credit to the stylist: it was a great choice.

Fourth clothing item: Button Down Blouse
The color on this was my favorite--a smoky dark blue with a cut that was flattering.  Two issues, though: the top button pulled slightly in the front, because of the bra I was wearing, and the fabric was a bit sheer.  I changed into a "lower profile" bra, but it was white instead of beige and showed through more than the first bra, so I also put on a cami underneath, and it was perfect.  Another keeper!

The Cost: $244 for all of the pieces that were sent to me. However, if I keep them all, I get 25% off (-$61). Since I already paid the $20 styling fee when the box shipped, the additional charge to my credit card will $163, but the Grand Total is $183 for the jeans, 3 shirts, and the necklace.

But wait--there's the AmEx offer, too. So, my final cost was actually $158 for 5 items.  That's a good deal, especially when you consider that everything I bought coordinates with one another, and with items I already own. And, since I used my daughter's referral code, we'll both be getting a $25 credit on our next order. Sweet!

Conclusion: my first Stitch Fix was definitely a win.  When I went to finalize my order online, I provided the stylist with detailed feedback (pretty much what I've said above), and changed my preferences on my Style Profile to exclude accessories going forward. I also sent a comment to the stylist that I have a "Date Night" coming up at the end of next month, and requested that she include an outfit that would be appropriate for that.

The website also recommends that you send the stylist links to an online bulletin board or social media account (like Pinterest or Instagram) where you save photos of clothes you like.  If I've learned anything thus far in the process, it's that the more information you provide, the better the experience so I went ahead and started up a private Pinterest board and sent the link to the stylist. I'm curious to see how next month's shipment works out, and if it is as successful as this one.

If you're interested in trying StitchFix and would like to use my referral code, click Here.  Good luck and let me know how it works out for you!

I'll report back on my second shipment at the end of August. From other reviews that I've seen online, the experience can vary greatly from person to person.  (On the StitchFix Facebook page, for example, it's either a 1-star awful review or a 5-star rave, with nothing in between. So far, I would rate it highly, but I'm going to give it a few months before I render a final verdict.)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Great effort by Croatia in the World Cup

Well, they didn't pull out a win today, but we're proud of them nevertheless.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Barry Manilow Sings A "Mandy" Duet..With Barry Manilow

My dear, long-suffering husband indulged my long-standing love for Barry Manilow by taking me to see his concert in Atlantic City tonight.  Barry sounded great, and always puts on a fun, entertaining show. 

I live-streamed a few of the songs, but this one was a stand-out: watch and see about halfway through, they put up video of Barry Manilow singing Mandy back in the 1970s, while modern-day Barry sings with him as a duet.  Loved it!